That elegant actor, Max von Sydow, has died at the age of 90. An exponent of Swedish cinema, he lent his grave hauteur and expressivity to at least one excellent film in every decade that he worked, bringing a kind of innate decency and enigma to the work of many international film directors. His rise to global prominence came courtesy of his collaboration with Ingmar Bergman, firstly with The Seventh Seal, a defiantly eccentric work in the oeuvre of an otherwise modern filmmaker, with whom he made several masterpieces including the man haunted by nuclear war in Winter Light and he was part of Bergman’s theatre repertory company too. You could say the spectre of Death haunted von Sydow but his natural abilities were seen in other kinds of work and when he made his English-language debut it was playing Jesus, in The Greatest Story Ever Told. That religiosity, interspersed with more work with Bergman and Jan Troell and some spy thrillers, culminated in his being cast as Father Merrin in The Exorcist, making him a staple exemplar of goodness in the anglophone horror genre. He made a chillingly effective super-rational hitman in paranoid thriller Three Days of the Condor opposite Robert Redford. The intellectual aspect of his performance made him ideal in Steppenwolf, a role that probably inspired Woody Allen to cast him as the temperamental artist Frederick in Hannah and Her Sisters, in which he gets a very funny line about the Holocaust. He was good at playing bad Germans – in The Quiller Memorandum and Shutter Island. And he would play a problematic Nazi-sympathising author Hamsun in the eponymous biography. For many of us we first encountered him as children, watching him as pitiless Emperor Ming in the exhilarating sci fi parody Flash Gordon and in the same spirit he gave us his Blofeld in Never Say Never Again. Most recently he appeared as Lor San Tekka in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Three-Eyed Raven in Game of Thrones, with his last release Thomas Vinterberg’s Kursk disaster film, The Command. But it’s perhaps in Bille August’s Pelle the Conqueror that he gave his most endearing performance as the illiterate farmer. With 163 screen credits, there’s plenty to choose from. He was acting royalty. Rest in peace.